Empire Belt RR ALcos

Empire Belt RR ALcos
Custom Painted FA / FB Units

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Running The Brick

Greetings Blow Followers,

This past week I broke out and ran the brick. That's right the brick. Better known to rail fans as an E33 Electric Locomotive. But the NYCTL does haven't catenary! True. But this is my model railroad and every now then I just have to say No Catenary! No Problem! so I can run the few electric locomotives (I know they're all electric) on the roster.

So what's an E-33? An electric locomotive that had five owners is the short answer. The long answer is this;

In the early 1950's coal hauling Virginian Railway ordered a dozen 3300 hp ignitron rectifier electric locomotives from General Electric to replace some antiquated side rod units that had been on their roster since early in the 20th century. The locomotives were powered by an overhead electrict wire called a catenary. The locomotives were classified as EL3Cs. In 1959 the Virginian was merged into the Norfolk and Western. The new N&W only routed eastbound traffic on the Virginian rails with westbound traffic travelling over N&W rails. Due to this the Virginian electrification and locomotives became surplus and the electrification was shut down. Soon thereafter the locomotives were sold at bargain basement prices to the perpetually cash strapped New Haven. The NH classified the locomotives as EF-4s. In the 1969 merger of the NH into the Penn Central 10 of the original 12 came over to the PC. Both the VGN and NH wrecked one of these locomotives during their ownership.

The units were classified as E33s and numbered 4601-4610 by the Penn Central. All 10 of the PC E33s were conveyed to Conrail in 1976 and all served until Conrail's end of electric operations in 1981. Two are reportedly preserved. One at the Railroad Museum of New England and the other at the Virginia Museum of Transportation. The rest were scrapped.

The Penn Central E33s seem to have been assigned to freight duties in what is now called the Northeast Corridor. (As part of the Amtrak takeover of passenger train operations the PC was to move their freight traffic off the NE corridor although that took awhile.) At the time of the PC and Conrail the E33s could run under wire from New Haven CT through NY into NJ and PA and onto DC or Harrisburg PA where the electric lines ended.

So why is it called a brick? Apparently railroaders from either the NH or PC nicknamed the engines as "bricks" due to their boxy appearance.

1 to 1 scale Penn Central E33 4605 takes a freight through Morrisville PA, January 1971

Bachmann Spectrum HO scale Penn Central 4605 rumbles through Empire City. No catenary...No problem. Admit it! It looks like a brick doesn't it 

E33 4605 with a similar freight consist as in the prototype photo

The 4605 is running well with a 12 car consist. It's maiden voyage several years ago was not so good. It ran 6 linear feet and then the motor seized and died. Sent back to Bachmann a replacement was received. 
This unit has since run OK in the limited run time it has enjoyed. 

PC 4605 rolls through North Side Yard with a Pennsylvania icon,
 a Strasburg Rail Road 40' Boxcar in the background.

PC 4605 passes Cargill with a custom painted PC boxcar sitting on the inner track.
 I think that 1/87th scale figure wants me to stop taking pictures.

The consist and the brick

The rest of the consist. 

Stay tuned the next episode of the FA-FB-FB-FA Project which will be up next!


  1. It's worth pointing out that the E33s could theoretically run through Penn Station, but they may never have done this, and certainly never on a freight. Clearances may have been an issue, but there were two other problems: I believe the PRR ran a test freight through the tunnels, but the slack action on the grades was so severe they didn't repeat it. Also, the risk of a derailment tying up the passenger operations was also too great. After the NH was included in PC, all the NH electrics were moved to former PRR territory. The ex-NH E40s had a pantograph removed and were put in freight service, but don't seem to have lasted long.

    But your E33 looks great in service! One thing I've thought about on my layout has ben to include the de-wired catenary poles that were visible (probably still are) in ex PRR ex Conrail territory on freight lines that were de-electrified. That way you get some of the fun of wires without the hassle.

  2. Fun change of pace to see electrics on the NYCTL, catenary or no catenary!

  3. Hi John, Thanks for the compliments on the E33. Interesting information regarding freight train tests on PRR through Penn Station tunnels. I'm also a fan of the PC E40s and as you noted correctly the E40s wore out their welcome in commuter service and were banished to freight service in NJ. It looks like the 4973 and 4977 lasted until at least early 1976 after the rebuilding and change over to one pantograph. The other units appear to have been put in the deadline upon arrival and then scrapped. John